Rules eased to compensate more ill Hanford workers via The Tri-City Herald

New rules that will make compensation easier to obtain for ill Hanford workers have taken effect.

They should help more workers receive $150,000 compensation plus reimbursement for current medical expenses related to Hanford exposures that may have caused certain cancers. Their survivors also may be eligible to claim the compensation.

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program initially required Hanford employees to have their radiation exposure estimated to show that it was high enough that it may have caused cancers that current or former workers developed. If the estimate was too low, they were denied compensation.
The latest workers who can be automatically compensated worked for Hanford construction contractors between 1984 and 1990, or for any subcontractor during that period. There are concerns that inconsistent or too little radiation monitoring was done for those workers to adequately estimate their radiation exposure.

In March, the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health met in Richland and recommended that compensation rules for those workers be eased. But the rule took effect only after the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services accepted the rule and then Congress did not object during a 30-day period.
The new special exposure cohort does not include Department of Energy workers or the workers for prime contractors. The excluded contractors include Battelle, Westinghouse and Hanford Environmental Health Foundation from 1984-90 and Rockwell Hanford Operations, UNC Nuclear Industries and Boeing Computer Services Richland from 1984 through June 28, 1987.

The cancers covered by special exposure cohort, with some restrictions, include bone and renal cancer, some leukemias, lung cancer, multiple myeloma, some lymphomas, and primary cancers of the bile ducts, brain, breast, colon, esophagus, gallbladder, liver, ovary, pancreas, pharynx, salivary gland, small intestine, stomach, thyroid and bladder.

To qualify for the new special exposure cohort, workers must have been employed at Hanford for at least 250 days.

Compensation rules were eased earlier for most Hanford employees from Oct. 1, 1943, through 1983. The subcontractor and construction contractor employees are the first to have eased rules for employment more recently than 1983. Easing rules for additional workers could be considered.

The program, administered by the Department of Labor, has paid $1.4 billion in compensation and medical benefits to Hanford and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory employees or their survivors. The payments covered compensation not only for radiation-caused cancer and berylliosis, but also compensation for wage loss or physical impairment caused by exposure to toxic substances.

For information on filing a claim, call the Hanford Resource Center in Richland at 888-654-0014.

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